4 ways you're damaging your hair
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out when your hair is damaged. Split ends, breakage and a dull, lacklustre finish are all red flags that signal when your hair is less-than-amazing.
What does take a scientist, though, is explaining why your locks are suffering so. That’s why we sat down with Steve Shiel, PhD – the Scientific Director of P&G – to shed some light on the factors that are causing damage.
WHAT CAUSES DAMAGED HAIR?
This kind of damage occurs when you brush, comb and roughly towel-dry your locks. And according to Shiel, you’re more likely to cause damage when your hair is wet. He compares your hair to a spring. A spring will pull and snap back, but it will eventually get to a point where it doesn’t snap back because it starts to unravel inside. Then one day, you pull the spring and it snaps. When your hair is wet, it’s easier to stretch out that ‘spring’, which is why you shouldn’t try playing around with it too much.
To combat this, try squeezing (instead of rubbing) the moisture out of your hair with a towel and brush/comb it when it’s mostly dry.
It should come as no surprise that the heat from your hair tools damages your mane. The sad truth is that if you want to style your hair, heat is important. So what’s a girl to do? According to Shiel, hair responds to temperatures differently, and the higher the temperature, the more you’re damaging the protein in your hair.
So, instead of cranking up your hair straightener to 230 degrees and going over each section of hair once or twice, set the tool to a lower temperature and do a few more strokes. It may take you a few extra minutes, but isn’t it worth it to save your strands?
Bleaching, colouring, perming, and relaxing your hair all take a hit at its health. But Shiel says the degree of damage depends on how aggressive the treatment is. This means that relaxing or perming your hair (which involves quite a few chemicals) and lightening your hair from brown to platinum blonde is far more damaging than colouring your hair brown using a semi or permanent hair dye.
And if you want to get a bit more science-y, dyeing also strips the ‘F-layer’ of your hair. This layer of fatty acid is bound to your hair cuticle and is responsible for your hair’s natural shine, smoothness and softness. So when it’s stripped away, you’re left with hair that’s drier, rougher and yes, more susceptible to damage.
UV radiation is a huge contributing factor to hair damage, according to Shiel. UV radiation penetrates hair and breaks down its protein. And here’s another thing – blonde beauties are worse off than brunettes. See, pigments (natural ones or those from hair dye) break down before protein, so if you have brown hair (i.e. more pigments), the pigments will absorb the UV rays first, whereas if you have blonde hair, your hair will become weaker quicker because it doesn't have pigments.
HOW TO TREAT DAMAGED HAIR
While it’s all well and good to be more aware of what causes damaged hair, what do you do about repairing current damage?
Well, as Shiel puts it, you can’t repair the actual damage done (as hair is essentially dead and there’s no way to ‘glue back together’ a cuticle and repair a split end), but you can fix the effects of the damage and make your hair work as if the damage wasn’t there.
Shiel explains that damaged hair has a higher concentration of negative ions, meaning its proteins are more negatively charged (which is why your hair goes static sometimes). The key is to use products that contain positively charged ingredients to neutralise your hair.
Pantene Pro-V products, like the 3 Minute Miracle, Daily Moisture Renewal Shampoo and Conditioner, contain these positively charged ingredients, one of which is called BTMAC (short for behenyl trimethyl ammonium chloride). BTMAC works like a magnet – it deposits itself on damaged hair to smooth it out and help it function as if underlying damage isn’t even there. The result? Shinier, softer and smoother hair.
Do you have damaged hair? After reading about the factors above, what do you think is causing the damage?